Stand Up Comedian Chronicles: Believe it or not, these megastars started out as comedians
LIVEINSTYLE.COM presents a remarkable list of 5 top lining silver-screen stars who began their careers evoking chuckles on stage and at stand up comedy clubs!
There’s no business like show business. Add some well-timed laughs, toss in rubber-faced antics, top with acerbic wit and you have a recipe for superstardom. Some of the silver screen’s most iconic actors began their careers as comedians — whether on stage, on television or as writers. From humble beginnings, wooing suburban audiences with their one-liners and rubber faces, to bringing in global audiences to cinema screens, they’ve laughed all the way to the bank. Brace your funny bones as we bring you our top 5 comedians who morphed into super-successful actors.
“My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.”
While that statement typifies Allen’s gently poignant and self-depreciating style of humour, there’s an entire sea of humanity that would give an arm and a leg to be him. Writer, director, actor and playwright — with a tally of 3 Academy Awards and 21 nominations — he is one of the most prolific cinema personalities in the world; and arguably the most famous New Yorker ever! Allen started young; distributing risqué notes in school and drafting jokes for other comics, before bursting onto the stand-up scene in 1961 with an altogether unique (intellectual, poker-faced and kvetching) style. Seeing great success as a playwright and contributor to The New Yorker when we was all but 18 years of age, he moved on to slapstick cinema like ‘Take The Money and Run’, ‘Bananas’ and ‘Sleeper’. However, it was his down-to-earth style and natural acting in films like ‘The Front’ and ‘Annie Hall’ that established him as a post-modern, seriously comedic talent with no parallel.
“I practiced making faces in the mirror and it would drive my mother crazy. She used to scare me by saying that I was going to see the devil if I kept looking in the mirror. That fascinated me even more, of course.”
That was Jim Carrey at the ripe old age of 8. Today, with a net worth of over $150 million, the superstar has not only used his naturally unnatural skills at physical comedy to propel his family out of a poverty-stricken life in Ontario, but displayed some serious acting chops in the bargain! Starting his stand-up act at a Toronto club at the age of 15, he wrote his own acts and brought in a hugely original style that went beyond clowning and slapstick into an irrepressibly physical mode. After his first TV special, ‘Jim Carrey: Unnatural Act’ in 1991, he hit the silver screen jackpot with ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’. To his credit, after playing silly to the gills in hits like ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and ‘The Mask’, Carrey turned in nuanced, award-winning performances in ‘The Truman Show’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind’.
“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.”
The title of Steve Martin’s memoirs — Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life — could well be the best description for this multifaceted entertainer and Hollywood legend. It’s a book that also shines light on the incredible challenges, struggles and limitations that the successful stand-up comedian and iconic movie star had to overcome. Martin began his career selling guidebooks at Disneyland and honing his stand-up skills at Knott’s Berry Farm, before being recognised as one of the most remarkable comic talents from the Baby Boomer generation. Like Woody Allen, Martin is primarily a talented writer, who excelled at stand-up comedy, banjo playing and film (‘Sgt. Bilko’, ‘Father of the Bride’ and ‘The Pink Panther’ to name a few). Veering between the gentle sexism of Fifties Americana and a more universal family appeal, he has perfected what he describes as “the art of making people laugh without making them puke”!
“My mother said I never talked in my own voice…”
A huge fan of Charlie Chaplin, Murphy began doing stand-up comedy acts as a teenager, even as he excelled at roasting his schoolmates and pulling impersonations from Al Green and Bugs Bunny to Muhammad Ali! The Brooklyn boy’s debut on America’s comedy mecca, NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ (ostensibly because the show was specifically seeking a Black cast member), was an unmitigated success. At the age of 21, he received a Grammy nomination for a live album of stand-up material titled ‘Eddie Murphy: Comedian’. The same year saw him bag his first movie role as the smart-ass convict to Nick Nolte’s sulky cop in ‘48 Hours’. Next, he replaced Sylvester Stallone in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ — grabbing a Golden Globe nomination for another rollicking performance. Adept at playing multiple characters simultaneously, Murphy showcased this ability in several films, including his 1988 rom-com sleeper hit, the $128 million-grosser ‘Coming to America’.
“For a number of years in England nobody had any idea what I looked like.”
It’s a statement that can be accepted with equanimity from one of the most recognised British comedians in America — that lanky, droll Jewish chap with a propensity for strange accents, odd costumes and even more bizarre characters! Involved in a bunch of things as a teenager, including break-dancing, modelling and amateur theatre, Cohen started with television shows, before hitting gold as the cult character Ali G in ‘The 11 o’clock Show’ in 1998. His talent for sharp satire in the guise of poker-faced silly antics took him straight to into the arms of a Golden Globe trophy and an Oscar nomination for ‘Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’. Following up with standout characters like the voice of King Julian (the eccentric lemur in ‘Madagascar 3’) and the theatrical Adolfo Pirelli in ‘Sweeney Todd,’ Cohen continues to take his comedic talents to strange — and very lucrative — places.
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